Rudolf Strobl



At some point I started taking photographs of my parents at home. We recreated situations we had experienced. Situations that belonged to our everyday lives together.

Objects and interiors became as much a part of our story as the portraits of my parents themselves. In the photographs my parents became strangers. The photographs were their images. A staging.

Now my father lives at the Bolaring retirement home. My mother visits him on a regular basis and brings him fruit, confectionery and cigarettes. Often I get the sense that my father is always allowed to smoke, all the time.

When I visit them, I’m always welcome, but I’m never part of their rituals. I was eager to know how they feel about this new situation. That’s probably why I photograph their everyday life.

Rudolf Strobl


Rudolf Strobl, born 1983 in Salzburg; lives and works in Vienna and Salzburg, Austria. 

Petra Noll-Hammerstiel

Bolaring came about as a result of Rudolf Strobl’s long-term project entitled Sundayland, a photographic portrait series of his parents, whom for many years he saw only in his free time, at weekends. This latest photo series focuses on the photographer’s father, who has been living in the eponymous old people’s home since 2014. Bolaring reprises the authentic narrative form of Sundayland: here, too, it is structured as a hybrid form of documentary and staged photography, using the genres of portrait and still life. The photographs were not the result of detached observation, but the direct result of the relationships between all the participants, with the photographer as someone personally involved. Indeed, the project is not just about his father, but also about his caring, nurturing mother, and the photographer’s own personal reflections. With unembellished openness and a sensitive approach that is never indiscreet, Strobl has created intimate, diary-like live portraits which, beyond the private sphere, address social taboos such as illness, ageing, and death as a social record, not to mention our longings and fears in this regard and our strategies for coping with our existence and our inexorable demise. They depict the vulnerability, loneliness, limitations, and loss of control of someone who is no longer able to keep pace with the world they were accustomed to. And so the father’s gaze is mostly lowered, or averted, visible in profile only, or obscured by sunglasses. But Strobl also shows the sense of comfort and warmth, the cohesion, and the safety that a social community such as a family is able to provide. It is moving to see the photographer’s mother trying to make the austere nursing home room more cosy. But the difficulties of family relations are palpable nonetheless, the way in which fixed roles are allocated, and the dependencies. One photograph shows a drawn curtain, referencing the lightbox work entitled Vorhang [Curtain] (2012) and the series Fenster [Window] (2014) in which Strobl reduced the rooms of his childhood to a succession of drawn curtains. They represent the cocooning and idyll of one’s own home, but also, for all the apparent transparency, the isolation from an outside world supposedly perceived as threatening. And all that’s left for the photographer’s father in his care home is the television set as a ‘window on the world’.

It is not least about the question of the veracity of the photographic image. Does it reflect real life or is it the image of a role play? If life is a state between reality and appearance, photography would be a worthy representative…


Petra Noll-Hammerstiel, born in Gelsenkirchen, Germany; freelance curator and author of contemporary art with a focus on photography and media art, lives in Vienna.